The top campaigners of three parties are headed one after the other to the Northeast, Rahul Gandhi looking to consolidate the Congress’s position, Narendra Modi seeking to give the BJP a stronger foothold in a region where it has only four of 24 seats, and Mamata Banerjee hoping to extend the Trinamool Congress’s reach beyond West Bengal.
Modi undertakes a whirlwind, daylong trip Saturday covering Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Tripura. Rahul arrives Tuesday on a two-day tour to four Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam. Mamata has only one rally February 25 in Agartala; party sources in Kolkata say she also plans to visit Guwahati and Manipur next month.
“The individual states may have very few seats but together they add up to 24. For the BJP, each seat is important to touch the magic number, which we are optimistic about,” said Sarbananda Sonowal, president of the Assam unit of BJP.
In Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP is looking at wresting both seats from the Congress. The party is fielding its national general secretary Tapir Gao from Arunachal East while Kiren Rijuju is the likely candidate for Arunachal West.
“Modi’s rally at Pasighat, the largest town and intellectual hub of the state, will give a huge boost to our campaign. With former chief minister Gegong Apang having joining the BJP, we are now looking at winning both seats comfortably,” said Sonowal. Modi’s second rally, at Silchar in the Barak Valley, is aimed at retaining Silchar and adding Karimganj, a seat the Congress won last time.
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Agartala will see the BJP’s biggest rally ever in a state under Left rule for four consecutive terms. “The people in Tripura so far had no alternative but a fractured Congress. Now that Modi is visiting Agartala, it is possible Tripura wil elect at least one BJP member,” Sonowal said.
Rahul’s two-day trip includes interactions with journalists, intellectuals, eminent citizens, tribal leaders, women and students, apart from a 50-km road show touching villages inhabited by tribals, Muslims farmers and tea labourers. “It will impact six constituencies, Guwahati, Nagaon, Kaliabor, Tezpur, Jorhat and Diphu,” said APCC spokesperson Mehdi Alam Bora. And Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said, “While Modi spent only three hours in Assam earlier this month, Rahul ji is spending 30 hours here. That proves who is more concerned about Assam.
Mamata has sensed a chance in Tripura with the Congress broken into at least two factions. “TMC will not only fight against the Left Front but also ensure that the state sends at least one TMC member to the Lok Sabha. Mamata’s rally will only strengthen this resolve,” Tripura TMC chief Atan Chakraborty said from Agartala.
Mamata has announced she will field candidates in several states, including Manipur and Tripura. Party sources say she plans a rally in Guwahati on March 26 and one in Manipur later. In Manipur the Trinamool is the main opposition, with seven seats of 60. Last September, 500 Congress supporters including three former ministers joined the Trinamool.
Inputs by Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay in Kolkata